Sunday, September 21, 2008

NASCAR at Dover Day 3

The morning traffic as seen in my rear view mirror

These guys had it all – an old rusted box van complete with roof seating and Tony Stewert flags, parking in the infield in front of the jumbo–tron, a sweet poster of the beer girl and a generator with enough gas to keep the party going all day.

The overview from above pit lane near the start/finish line

Kurt Busch spins during the second lap of the race.

Jeff Gordon took the pole and lead for a while, but would never regain the lead.

Jimmy Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch race through turn 4

Race action during one of the many restarts. (This would also describe the traffic
driving down Rt 1 on Sunday morning.)

Kurt Busch and Mark Martin race through turn 4

Greg Biffle ended up winning and had a pretty lame victory celebration at least on the track

He and his team celebrated in victory lane then had to push the confetti covered car back to the garage

By Sunday morning I thought I had everything figured out. I got up early again to make it to the track by 9. The traffic traveling south on Rt. 1 was fast. I was doing 95mph at one point just to keep up with the traffic and was passed by a state trooper just cruising along. I'm pretty sure there was a family in a Ford Taurus station wagon covered with nascar stickers trying to bump draft for a few miles before they could finally pass. The police are fully prepared to deal with huge amount of traffic coming into the exit. They direct you onto the shoulder - I pulled over about a mile before the actual exit. I heard later in the morning traffic was backed up about five miles to the exit. Then through town and into the stadium. It took about an hour to get to my parking spot, which wasn't too bad I thought.

I got in and met up with Steven and Jared again. There wasn't too much going on until the race started so I sat in the media center and edited the images from the first few days. NASCAR and Dover take really good care of the media and provide enough workstations for most photographers and also have a ton of food and drinks in the air conditioned media center right off pit road. It was fun watching all the people come through pit road and see the cars and crew up close. That is about as close as I got to the fans until I decided to walk around the infield which they open up on Sunday after the pit space from the previous days race is cleared. These people wait to get in at 4:30 A.M. and come fully prepared for a full day of partying. Most have pickup trucks with some sort of decking built above the cab to watch the race from their position. Others had vans (one guy even had a set up to have fires on the roof of his van – which I'm sure is a good idea after a day of drinking). They were super nice people and most commented on how nice my camera was.

I made my way back to pit road after it went hot and all spectators were cleared. I had to shoot the Jack Daniels car and driver – Clint Boyer – with the JD VIPs. It was three frames, but that's all they needed. While I was waiting for Clint to get there, I was talking with one of Jamie McMurry's crew members. He was about the same age and seemed like a hard working guy. He told me he works in the shop all week building racecars then flies to the race early Sunday morning to work on the pit crew, then flies back that night to be at work on Monday. He said they have to chop up the chassis into tiny pieces when they get wrecked so people from the other teams can't check the angles and try to use that to their advantage. I had no idea just how secretive they were about that kind of stuff. He also said that if someone on their race team (they have 6 or 7 different race teams) wins or does well they'll cater lunch on Tuesday.

After I got the shots on the starting grid, I walked down to the first turn and shot the first 100 laps from the photographers post above the garage there. Kurt Busch got a little anxious on the second or third lap and spun out and hit the outside wall. It wasn't nearly as loud cause the Sprint Cup Series has so many cars in their race that you can't hear much until they get spread out. There was another caution by lap 13 and then again just a few laps later. I moved down to the start finish line for another hundred laps. One of the race announcers talking about pit road. I don't know how he heard anything and wasn't sure how the mic didn't pick up all the race noise, but they do it every weekend so I guess they've got it pretty well figured out. Dale Earnhardt blew a tire right in front of me. The sound of the tire exploding echoed off my chest and throughout the entire stadium. When the tire blew it shredded the rear fender and most of it was laying on the track right in front of me. I noticed a lot of people – his fans – heading for the exit after that happened.

As the light moved I walked up to turn 4 and shot from a photographer tower there. That one was just a steel tower that is about 40ft up. It provides a good view of turn 4 and the front strech. There were already about 4 other photographers up there, but everyone's cool about moving around and not getting in each others way. I made some good shots of the leaders and cars toward the front coming through there three wide. But with about 40 laps left I walked back to the start finish line to shoot the winner – Greg Biffle – doing burnouts and getting the checkered flag.

By this point, I had had about enough. My ears were ringing, I was sunburnt and I had my fill of racing for a while. I walked back and watched the celebration in victory lane and waited for Jared. While I was waiting I was watching the crews tear down their pit boxes. It's quite amazing just how organized and well thought out these things are. All packed up they are about 7 feet long by 5 feet tall. Expanded they are a tool box in the front complete with air hoses and compressors for the impact guns, work bench and viewing station in the back (most have two flat screens where the crew watch the race on tv) and seating on top. Most have three or four seats up top with computer monitors in front of each seat. Most also have a covering above the seats on top. By the end of the race they're all packed up and ready to be wheeled back onto the trailer.

I said my goodbyes and headed out to deal with traffic leaving. Luckily I caught the tail end of the Phillies and Eagles game. Unluckily traffic wasn't moving – at all. I was in line to leave, but I might have well have been in my origianl parking spot. Some people were still tailgating – but this time for the Eagles game. It took about two hours to get back onto Rt. 1, but their was so much traffic leaving that way it was slow moving all the way until Wilmington.

This experience left me with a great appreciation for everyone who does this all weekend, every weekend for 40 weeks in a row. There is so much work that goes into everything there from the race teams, to the media, to track officals and planning. I would definitley do it all again and would suggest going to a race even if you don't like racing – it's an incredible experience.

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